The Last Laugh

Synopsis: Feature documentary about humor and the Holocaust, examining whether it is ever acceptable to use humor in connection with a tragedy of that scale, and the implications for other seemingly off-limits topics in a society that prizes free speech.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Ferne Pearlstein
Production: Tangerine Entertainment
Rotten Tomatoes:
88 min




You have some coffee?

Yeah I thought wed just have

a quick bite before we leave,

but this place is so filthy

I dont want to

lay anything down

I brought a little bit

of goodies for us.

for us but my hands

are not that clean

- That's okay

- So if you want the napkin.

- I don't need it.


- So use this napkin, okay?

Auschwitz wasn't

cleaner than this!

I knew you'd say that.

Two Jews have been sent

to assassinate Hitler

This is during the war.

They've gotten some


as to where Hitler might be

Theyre standing

outside his home

They're hiding, theyre waiting

for Hitler. Eight o'clock comes,

go no Hitler.

An hour goes by,

he's not home yet

Wheres Hitler?

Then another two hours go

by, hes not home yet

Now it's 8:
30 and he

still doesn't show up,

and one Jew turns to

the other and says:

Gee, I hope nothing

happened to him!

So what is this supposed to be?

Crossing lines?

Being in bad taste?

So should I start

the interview with

Heil Hitler! Is that good?

OK. I mean its uhits

part and parcel, its

in keeping, right?

Stalin is nicer, right?

Its easier

But this is the guy who made

me money, so I stick with him.

The thing about

a joke about

the Holocaust,

AIDS, the AIDS crisis,


it's all about the funny.

It's got to be funny.

You can't tell a

crappy joke

about the biggest tragedy in

the world. You can't do it.

Comedy puts light onto darkness,

and darkness can't live

where there's light.

So that's why it's important to

talk about things

that are taboo, because

otherwise they just

stay in this dark

place and they become


I don't have a

philosophy about it.

I just know that it's much more

fun to laugh than not to laugh.

You have to have a

sense of humor.

If you dont have

a sense of humor,

just go to your grave.

Or get cremated or something.

The Holocaust itself

is not funny.

Theres nothing funny about it.



and what it takes to survive,

there can be humor in that.

One day, the doctor arrives

and who is it, its

Dr. Mengele.

And we have to get undressed,

he's going to check us,

and we were wondering, why

are they checking us?

What is the doctor checking?

I mean that was itself funny.

But I come in front of him

and he

he puts his hand on my shoulder

and he says to me in German,

Genug Speck noch

There is still enough fat.

And then he says to me,

If you survive this war, he


you better have your tonsils


you have big tonsils.

So, you know, I was

thinking Is he insane?

Tomorrow I may die,

I'm worried about my tonsils?

But when I

came back,

when I survived and came

back, and I thought about

what he said, it was


I was thinking that

Ill make matzo brei.

How many eggs do you need?

Why dont you get four.

Most people don't expect

survivors to have much humor

after the Holocaust, and that's

really not the case at all.

The survivors

actually have

some of the worst gallows

humor ever.

And I guess that they're the

only ones allowed to do that!

I remember the story

that you told me,

they would make parties

in their head.

There was no food so they would

invent the food in their head

- Oh, we cooked a lot!

- They cooked a lot!

And so, I mean, the absurdity of

some of this stuff is humorous.

So they're making parties

and they're talking about

the recipes for it, andand my

recipe is better than

your recipe

I mean this is an absurdity but

its certainly humorous.

And were you laughing when

you were doing it, at times?

No, we were not laughing, but

the last sentence always was,

Now you know this will

never happen.


235. Ghetto diary,

October 29, 1941.

Every day at the Art

Caf on Leszno Street

one can hear songs and

satires about the police,

and even the Gestapo.

The Typhus epidemic itself

is the subject of jokes.

Typhus is a subject of jokes!

It is laughter through

tears, but it is laughter.

This is our only

weapon in the ghetto.

The only weapon in the ghetto.

Laugh at the death.

Humor is the only thing the

Nazis cannot understand.

And thats the only thing the

Nazis cannot understand,


Humor is the only thing

they dont understand.

They dont understand

life either.

Humor is a way of dealing

with an unbearable reality.

Its a way of protesting,

its a way of keeping

your dignity

when you have to do things

that you dont want to do.

So if you do them and you keep

your humor its like

saying, you know,

Im still human.

(Singing in Yiddish/French)

Bei mir bistu shein

Ce la signifie, vous etes

pour moi plus que la vie

That's all you ar going to hear.

I met Robert Clary

I spoke a little French, so

he was very happy

because he wasnt that

proficient in English

in 1952. He was getting


And now he speaks it as

if he really knows it.

Robert Clary was in the camps,

and he would

entertain in the camps,

and the entertainment

saved his life.

That was second nature with me.

Singing, dancing,

clowning around.

And that helped me

tremendously when

I was deported.

Because automatically

when I wenteven the

first camp

campI started to sing for

the people who were there,

the prisoners.

People are constant.


And if you

were funny

before, youll be funny during,

and youll be funny after.

I was 16 years old when I was

arrested and sent to the camp.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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